It has all the elements of a great celebration—games, music, food, and fun—but Farmworker Appreciation Day is more than just a party. Held each summer in Grant, the event is also an expression of gratitude to the migrant and seasonal workers in Newaygo County whose hard work is critical to local farmers and to the economy.

“These individuals work hard to put food on our tables,” said Mary Rangel, one of the event’s organizers and Community Foundation trustee. She understands firsthand many of the challenges the workers face. She has clear memories of carrying a change of clothes to school so that she could head right out to the fields when the final bell rang.

“You don’t truly appreciate what they do until you get out there in the field yourself,” said Mary. “They sacrifice so much and their work makes life easier for the rest of us.”

Sponsored in part by a grant from the Community Foundation, Farmworker Appreciation Day features a host of free resources, activities, and services like blood pressure checks. Families enjoy a cookout and children can get ready for the school year with haircuts, school supplies, and new shoes.

“I love seeing the families come in and feel good about the day,” said Mary. “They know we see how hard they work.”

Newt Dilley’s family shares a passion for enjoying the outdoors and protecting natural resources. As Newt’s son, Cameron, recalled, “We were taught to always leave a camp site cleaner than we found it.” Daughter Abby described carrying potato sacks on hikes so they could pick up trash along the way.

They are a family concerned with protecting the environment, and they have a special love for the White River that stretches back four generations.

Newt’s father bought property along the White River in 1931. The family built a cabin and spent nearly every summer weekend there. Newt and his wife, Ann, continued the tradition with their own children. Now their grandchildren learn to fly fish in the river.

At 91-years-old, Newt still makes regular trips out to the White Cloud cabin. Even in winter, he often spends an afternoon working on projects along the river. “There’s always work to do,” said Newt. “Rivers need our help—they’ve been abused for so long.”

In celebration of Newt’s birthday in 2013, Abby and the family started the A. Newton Dilley White River Fund at the Community Foundation. “He’s always been so dedicated to the White River,” said Abby of her father. “I thought this would be a great way to commemorate his 90th birthday.”

Newt hopes that grants from the fund will help to target erosion and stabilize riverbanks, ensuring that many more generations will come to love the river as he has. “People know the White River is here, but they don’t realize how much it contributes to our quality of life,” said Newt. “It is a very treasured resource.”

Joe Berger is an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings and in his tenth season in the NFL. But he’s also a Newaygo High School graduate who has not forgotten the important role his family and home community played in his success.

“I walked on in college, I didn’t have a football scholarship,” Joe said. “My whole family has a part in where I ended up. So does this community. I received three scholarships from the Community Foundation and I know how important they were to my future.”

In addition to his career in the NFL, Joe holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan Tech.

Determined to give back and to demonstrate the importance of giving to their three young children, Joe and Abby (Murray) Berger created the Berger Family Scholarship at Fremont Area Community Foundation. It is awarded to two scholar-athletes each year—one from Newaygo High School and one from Grant High School, Abby’s alma mater.

“We set up this scholarship to give someone else a chance to get to school,” said Joe. “Since the Community Foundation helped me, I wanted to help someone else persevere and have a chance to succeed.”